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Grand jury serves twice as long due to COVID

Grand juries in Pearl River County are typically impaneled for six months, but due to COVID-19, the most recent grand jury has been impaneled since October 2019.

Typically the county seats new members to a grand jury in April and October, but because of the pandemic October’s grand jury served twice the time, said Circuit Clerk Nance Stokes. They were held over to prevent bringing a large number of new people into the court buildings in April.

Since the grand jury served so much longer than is typical, the county altered the schedule used to impanel grand juries, so that one will be seated in January and one in July of 2021. In the original 2021 schedule, grand juries would have been impaneled in May and September.

Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public. Grand juries do not decide guilt or innocence, but determine if a certain case should proceed further to be tried in Circuit Court.

The court system has been open and making adjustments for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, said Stokes.

Many motion hearings and docket calls are being done through video. The number of people within courtrooms is being limited, said Stokes.

“The courts are always open,” she said. “We have never closed. We have not shut down, but we are taking those extra precautions, doing as much of it through the video as we can.”